Today we spent our time in “Amish Country.” I put that in quotes because that like saying a particular spot is “Catholic Country” or something. It makes no sense. Being Amish is about much more than living in a particular part of the country. It’s about family history, faith, a choice to live within certain “guidelines” and a choice to live without certain “modern technologies.”
We spent time in Lancaster County, PA before. In fact, we spent one vacation living at a Mennonite bed and breakfast on their farm. It was a wonderful vacation – restful and educational at the same time.
This time we just traveled to that area from Mechanicsburg for the day. Once we got through the state capital of Harrisburg, where there was of course a good deal of traffic, we had a lovely day. The weather today was a tease of spring. Sunny and in the low 60’s. Really, it was the best weather day of this vacation.
We ended up on Rt 30 again. It continues up that way from Gettysburg. Our first stop was the Bird-in-Hand Farmer’s Market in Bird-in-Hand, PA. This is a wonderful market with fresh produce, baked goods, meat markets and craft stalls. I found a bird house and a handmade basket – both made by local Amish families. I try to be very careful when we travel. I refuse to buy some trinket that has the name of a place we visiting if it says “Made in somewhere else” on the bottom. I prefer to support the local economy and get something that was actually made in the place I’m visiting. My husband picked up something local, too – he got himself several Red Velvet Whoopie Pies made in a local bakery. I also picked up some Jake & Amos pickles and sweet pickled beets. Jake & Amos is a local company that does also do business online. They have wonderful fruit butters, jams, relishes and the like.
When we left the market, we just began wandering the back roads. It’s fun to just come to a stop sign and make a spontaneous choice to turn left or right. Since the back roads run between two main routes, you really can’t get lost. If you end up at the main road, you just make a couple of turns and you’re back among the farms.
I love the farm country. I really feel emotionally tied to it. Maybe it’s because my grandparents had a small dairy farm. Maybe it’s something else. I don’t know. I do know that when I’m among the farms here, I feel a kind of peace. So I thank God that the Amish have held on to the farms so tenaciously.
Today we saw farmers out plowing the fields and spreading manure (natural fertilizer) on equipment pulled by horses and mules. We saw buggies pulled by horses. We saw children, in typical Amish garb, playing outside the schools during lunch hour. We saw other children later, after school, walking home along the road or across the fields. We saw what I knew we would see on a day like today, after so many wet days – lines filled with clean laundry waving in the breeze as they dried. We saw horses, cows, goats, sheep and dogs. Big deal? I suppose . . . but it still put a smile on MY face.
We had our main meal of the day at the Shady Maple Smorgasbord in Blue Ball, PA. We’ve eaten there before and the food is amazing for a big establishment. I’m not usually a big fan of buffets, in spite of what my weight might make you think, but this one is really worthwhile. They can handle anything from individuals to bus loads of people. The service is great. The food tastes freshly made. There are more choices than you can comfortably eat in one meal. The price includes all the food and beverage you can manage but they don’t allow tipping. I believe that’s because they are a Mennonite run firm and therefore pay people an appropriate wage so they don’t need tips to make a living. The funny thing is that the service is so good, this is one place you really wouldn’t mind tipping.
We also took a stroll through their HUGE gift shop located on the lower floor of the restaurant. They have local items and typical tourist stuff, tasteful and tacky, furniture, garden ornaments and a section of Amish made items like quilts and baskets.
After driving through more farmland and over the covered bridge, we headed back to the hotel for the evening. Except for the afternoon rush hour traffic around Harrisburg, it was a pleasant drive.
I told my husband that I would be happy to live in a small house in the midst of the farms when he retires. He laughed – the laugh that means I was reading his mind again. Who knows?